frequently asked questions
Part A: Questions about A Call to Action – A Canadian Roadmap for Small Modular Reactors
What are the goals of the Roadmap?
The Roadmap aimed to foster innovation and establish a long-term vision for the nuclear industry, as well to assess the characteristics of different SMR technologies and their alignment with Canadians’ requirements and priorities.
The goal of the Roadmap was to hold a national conversation about the needs and priorities of Canadians that will lead to understanding the value of SMRs, identify some key issues around their use, their potential risks and challenges, and identify some policies that could influence the feasibility of SMRs in Canada – and then to chart a path forward.
What is the process and timeline for the Roadmap?
The Roadmap was built with a collaborative, national approach, both with respect to its leadership and engagement – all interested provinces, territories, and power utilities from across Canada were invited to join the Steering Committee.
The Roadmap began with a Visioning Workshop in March 2018, followed by three application specific (e.g., On-grid, Remote and Heavy Industrial) workshops between April and June 2018. Concurrently five expert working groups analyzed key areas: Technology, Economics and Finance, Public and Indigenous Engagement, Waste Management, and Regulatory Readiness.
The report A Call to Action – A Canadian Roadmap for Small Modular Reactors will be launched at Canada’s 1st International Conference on Generation IV and Small Reactors on November 7, 2018, in Ottawa, Ontario.
The Roadmap is an ongoing project with many recommendations to key enablers.
Why weren’t all of the provinces and territories included in the Pan-Canadian SMR Roadmap?
Natural Resources Canada invited all Canadian provinces and territories to join the Steering Committee. Only Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories responded, and they are on the SMR Roadmap Steering Committee.
How much did the Roadmap cost the Government of Canada?
The Government of Canada, through Natural Resources Canada’s Energy Innovation Program, contributed approximately $200,000.00 to the Roadmap initiative.
The SMR Roadmap Steering Committee members shared the remainder of the cost of the project.
Were Indigenous groups engaged during the Pan-Canadian SMR Roadmap?
At the outset of the SMR Roadmap process, the Steering Committee identified engagement with Indigenous groups in Canada as an important component of the process and committed to beginning a constructive and respectful conversation with Indigenous groups and communities.
Indigenous engagement sessions took place in New Brunswick, Alberta and Nunavut, and focused on regional and sub-regional organizations.
Indigenous engagement that began under the SMR Roadmap was the beginning of a dialogue with Indigenous groups and communities. Members of the SMR Roadmap Steering Committee will build on this initial engagement to meet with interested groups and communities, including First Nations and Metis groups in Ontario, to encourage a meaningful, two-way dialogue on the potential for SMRs in Canada’s clean energy mix.
What are the next steps?
The Pan-Canadian SMR Roadmap is a call to action with recommendations across four pillars:
Demonstration and deployment – Governments should provide funding to cost-share demonstration projects with industry. Federal and provincial governments should implement measures to share risk with private investors to incentivize first-commercial deployment of SMRs in Canada, with the potential of exporting SMR technologies and related innovations developed in Canada to international markets.
Indigenous engagement – Building on the constructive dialogues that were launched under the Roadmap, it is recommended that enablers continue with meaningful, two-way engagement with Indigenous peoples and communities on the subject of SMRs, well in advance of specific project proposals.
Legislation, regulation, and policy – The Roadmap includes various recommendations on federal impact assessment, nuclear liability, regulatory efficiency and waste management.
International partnerships and markets – The federal government, with support from industry, laboratories, and academia, should continue strong and effective international engagement on SMRs, in particular to influence the development of international enabling frameworks.
Why wasn’t I consulted during the Pan-Canadian SMR Roadmap?
The SMR Roadmap was the start of a conversation about the potential future of SMRs in Canada.
Next steps, such as developing a strategy for SMRs in Canada, will include further engagement and consultation with additional stakeholders across Canada.
PART B: QUESTIONS ABOUT SMRs
Why is Canada interested in SMRs instead of other innovative clean energy technologies?
All clean energy options must be considered. The future requires an affordable, diversified energy system. Nuclear is an important part of Canada’s low-carbon energy mix and will play an important role in achieving Canada’s low-carbon future.
All forms of low carbon electricity generation will need to grow significantly if the world is to globally control greenhouse gas emissions. SMRs have the potential to complement and enable variable renewables, such as solar and wind.
How are SMRs different than other innovative clean energy technologies?
SMRs are smaller and simpler than the traditional nuclear reactors that we have seen in the last half-century. They are innovative technologies that promise to help the clean energy transition, with designs that involve lower capital investment and modular designs to control costs, and incorporate enhanced safety features. The vision is to reduce on-site construction and move toward factory-type production of modules in larger numbers.
SMRs can be used in applications where traditional nuclear or other renewables are too large, such as in remote communities or at mining operations. They can also enable new applications such as hybrid nuclear-renewable energy systems, low-carbon heat and power for industry, and offsetting diesel use at remote mine sites and communities.
Some SMR designs have existed for over 50 years, so why are they not in wide-scale use today?
SMRs have been built for research, industrial, space and military applications since the inception of nuclear technology in the 1950’s. Advancements in technology, including improved safety features over traditional nuclear power reactors, and a number of emerging global issues, such as climate change and energy security, are driving the development of SMRs for wide-scale, commercial use.
What are the benefits from SMRs from a societal needs perspective?
Some of the potential social and environmental benefits of SMRs include:
- Delivering cleaner, more abundant, and more reliable electricity.
- Aiding Canada in meeting its climate change commitments, working towards a low-carbon future; and
- Unlocking regional growth opportunities by growing a pan-Canadian nuclear industry.
Why do people remain concerned about nuclear, including SMRs, if they offer societal benefits?
It is natural to have reservations about changing technology. On SMRs, people have questions about human and environmental safety, the disposal of nuclear waste, economic viability and other issues.
What are the key innovations from SMRs which may help public acceptance?
There are a number of innovative characteristics that differentiate SMRs from traditional nuclear power plants. In general, they are smaller and simpler.
SMRs have inherent safety characteristics, such as passive cooling systems that do not depend on the availability of electric power.
SMRs are less expensive to finance than traditional nuclear power plants. They require lower up-front capital investments than traditional nuclear power plants, and are cheaper than a number of other renewable energy options.
SMRs can enable new applications such as hybrid nuclear-renewable energy systems, with SMRs serving as a dynamic, load-following source of energy, paired with variable renewables on a decentralized grid.
Do we really need nuclear in order to meet our commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and climate change?
The global community is increasingly concerned about the effects of climate change, which is largely driven by the emission of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. A high proportion of these emissions come from the burning of carbon-based fuels – for heating, transportation, industrial processes or power generation.
Renewables such as wind, solar and tidal power total less than 2% of all electric power generation in Canada. Nuclear is the only readily expandable, low-carbon energy source that can provide a reliable and affordable source of power to fill rapidly growing global electricity demand, which is associated with reducing the burning of fossil fuels and the rising quality of human life.
How do SMRs fit into existing infrastructure?
The size, modularity and scalability of SMRs allow for a high degree of flexibility. They can generate electricity and also heat urban building complexes. They can also supply industrial heat to remote mining and other industrial operations.
The relatively small size of SMR units allows greater flexibility for inclusion in existing grids and infrastructure than large reactors. This makes them a viable option for replacement of traditional fossil-fueled energy sources such as coal- and gas-fired power plants in some Canadian provinces, without building expensive new transmission infrastructure.
What are the current legislations and regulations in Canada that address SMRs?
The development and deployment of SMRs would have similar legislative and regulatory obligations as Canada’s large-scale nuclear.
Will SMRs produce nuclear waste?
Yes. In addition to being low-carbon and using little land, nuclear power generates a volume of waste that is very small compared to other sources of electrical power generation. That being said, Canadians rightly continue to challenge all energy sources, including nuclear, to meet the highest standards with respect to safety, security, environmental protection, waste management and cost-effectiveness. SMRs are no exception.
Waste produced by SMRs can be differentiated into two classes: used fuel, and low- and intermediate-level waste. “Used fuel” is used nuclear fuel that is removed from nuclear reactors after is has been used to produce energy. “Low- and intermediate-level waste” refers to all forms of radioactive waste, except used fuel.
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is responsible for implementing Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of used fuel, including that created using new or emerging technologies, such as SMRs.
The ultimate solution for low- and intermediate-level waste from SMRs is long-term disposal in appropriate facilities, similar to what is being pursued by some waste owners in Canada.
Are there any SMR projects currently underway in Canada?
There are currently no SMR projects underway in Canada where a specific reactor technology is proposed to be built at a specific site. While there is the potential for a SMR project in Canada in the coming years, any such project would require extensive consultation with the public and Indigenous communities prior to commencement.
When can I expect to see a demonstration SMR in Canada?
Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) has issued an invitation to SMR project proponents who wish to participate in the evaluation process for the construction and operation of an SMR demonstration project at a CNL-managed site. CNL has a vision to have a demonstration unit built by 2026.
When can I expect to see a commercially operated SMR in Canada?
While there are research reactors at Canadian universities, there are no commercial SMR projects in Canada. Recent advances in SMR technology could see some concepts ready for deployment within the next decade. Any commercially operated SMR in Canada would require the same or similar consultation, licensing, and impact assessment requirements as other energy projects in Canada.
What other countries are considering SMRs?
SMRs are internationally recognized as an important part of the climate change toolkit. The United Kingdom, the United States and France, like Canada, are keenly interested in the opportunities that SMRs present. On the other hand, Argentina, China and Russia are currently in various stages of SMR construction.